Did you know dogs can suffer from seasonal allergies, just like us? Your four-legged friend can suffer from a range of symptoms that impact quality of life, from itchy eyes to skin infections. Here, our Stockton vets list signs and treatment options for seasonal allergies in dogs.
Your Dog's Seasonal Allergies
If your pet's immune system overreacts to a certain substance (called an allergen), allergic reactions can occur in dogs. Generally, these substances are harmless to most pets. However, some dogs are hypersensitive, leading to allergies and their associated symptoms.
The immune system typically works to ward off infection and disease, but where allergies are concerned it misidentifies the substance as dangerous and produces unpleasant symptoms (sneezing, bald patches of skin, itchy eyes and more) to try to expel the substance that their system has deemed dangerous.
Seasonal allergens are one common cause of allergic reactions in dogs. After the first time your pup comes into contact with an allergen, their immune system will go haywire, leading to an inflammatory response any time they encounter that same allergen again in their environment.
Factors that contribute to seasonal allergies will only be present at particular times throughout the year, whether in the spring, summer or fall. Some common causes of allergies in dogs include:
- Mold spores and mold mites
- Fresh grass
- Dust and dust mites
- Saliva from flea bites
- Hay fever
While most allergies are incurable, there are several options that can help to manage and treat them to improve your pet's quality of life and well-being.
Symptoms of Canine Seasonal Allergies
Even mild cases of seasonal allergies can cause a dog major discomfort, so it's important to recognize potential symptoms, which can range in severity and reaction depending on the irritant.
For example, while hay fever often triggers runny noses, sneezing and itchy eyes in humans, a dog's skin can become irritated when hay fever is the culprit and extreme itchiness can develop, along with an irritated throat and sneezing.
Some common symptoms in dogs suffering seasonal allergies include:
- Skin infection or irritation
- Scratching or biting at skin due to itchiness or irritation
- Atopic dermatitis
- Respiratory issues (e.g. coughing, wheezing, issues breathing)
- Shedding and hair loss
- Irritated throat
- Rash on face or paws
- Rubbing face on floor or furniture
- Scooting (dragging butt across the ground) and/or licking rear
- Ear infections, waxy ears, reddened ears
- Shaking head– This is an especially common allergic reaction for dogs with floppy ears such as basset hounds.
These conditions could be painful and even dangerous, so seek veterinary care sooner rather than later.
Diagnosing Seasonal Allergies in Dogs
Your dog's veterinarian will be able to diagnose seasonal allergies by discussing your pet's history with you, performing a physical examination, running a number of diagnostic tests (including blood work) in our in-house diagnostic vet lab and monitoring your dog's treatment response to therapies.
Your vet may also recommend a specialist veterinary dermatologist for skin testing, which is an accurate way to have seasonal allergies diagnosed.
During this testing period, your dog will be monitored for reactions to microdoses of different allergens to identify the specific allergy that's causing their symptoms. The data can be used to develop an allergy shot serum to help manage your dog's response to allergens, lessening their intensity over time.
What to Give Your Dog for Allergies
When it comes to discussing how to treat your dog's seasonal allergies with your vet, the allergy serum mentioned above (and prescribed by a veterinary dermatologist) may help. It will mean a series of allergen injections, gradually increasing in dose over time.
These injections can be done at home with a very small needle, and some professional guidance. Fortunately, allergy injections tend to trigger low levels of side effects, which can make them effective for dogs with moderate to severe allergies.
For mild seasonal allergies, your dog may respond well to at-home or over-the-counter remedies such as antihistamines.
Other options include oral prescription medications and fast-acting anti-itch medicine that can be discontinued without negative side effects. Some medications control the immune systems response to allergens. Your Stockton veterinarian can prescribe these after conducting a physical exam and running blood work.
Some prescription medications may have side effects, so ask your vet how taking them may affect your dog's health. We always recommend speaking to your vet before giving your dog any medications, including over-the-counter ones - so your vet can provide advice on the best dose for their specific needs.
Using Nutrition to Manage Your Dog's Seasonal Allergies
There are now specially formulated therapeutic dog foods available to help manage skin allergies in dogs. These may be used to supplement or replace the requirement for more costly medications. Ask your veterinarian about nutritional options for your dog and how to integrate or transition to a new food if the vet recommends you should do so.
Limiting Exposure to Allergens
From fall through summer, your dog may be exposed to any number of allergens. One key to keeping your pup happy and health is managing exposure. After your dog comes in from playing outside, you may want to use a baby wipe on their paws, legs and underside to remove allergens from the skin.
Weekly baths with oatmeal shampoos and lukewarm (not hot) water may also help. It's important that the water be lukewarm to prevent overdrying and skin irritation. Medicated shampoo containing steroids or antihistamines can work well, as can prescription-strength sprays and lotions.
When it comes to dogs and allergies, proper treatment and active prevention measures can often reduce the impact of seasonal allergens on your dog's health and well-being, though it may take some experimenting.
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.